Victus Spiritus


Fun Productive Rhythms

06 Dec 2010

Each day takes shape as a periodic cycle although your personal order of activities^ may vary:

  1. wake
  2. prepare
  3. travel
  4. exercise
  5. eat
  6. travel
  7. work
  8. eat
  9. work
  10. travel
  11. eat
  12. hobby projects
  13. relax/unwind (entertainment)
  14. rest


I'll start off at a point far from productivity, namely entertainment, then circle back through arm chair psychology, and wrap up the post by tying together work efficiency with how we play.

The majority of hard working people I know like to passively soak in a little prime time visual programming after a hard day at work. Many mix in light reading and socializing to catch up using a second screen like laptops, smart phones, or tablets. Some folks swap video with audio, a favorite book, or a fantastic video game. There are a number of kooks, myself included, who squeeze in side projects during their free time when so inclined*.

Regardless of the specifics of how we unwind, human nature reinforces behavior that our mind prefers through the release of endorphins. This feedback is both the blessing of healthy habits and the bane of addicts round the world. Raise your hand if you're coffee spiritual.

We each have the ability to program ourselves with healthy behavior with a bit of meta cognitive trickery. But the self hack isn't all flowers and unicorns. It demands elevated awareness of the fine line between helpful and harmful self manipulation. There's a limit to how far you can dissociate decision making from your own life.

Work's payoff is productivity

Fun activities are reinforced with mind candy, but how does that affect work behavior? We invent a variety of work forms just as diverse as leisure, especially when we're in need of something new. Each of these types of work motivate us through love (fun++), necessity, or a combination of the two. Mirroring entertainment's endorphin hit, the reward cycle of work feeds on a sense of efficiency.

For paying work, personal productivity can be loosely measured by your equity and cash position (with a wide fudge factor for negotiating ability) normalized by your years of labor.

Net worth = 401k + home equity + savings - debt
Years working = for me, just shy of 15

Using this equation I'm roughly netting 45k per year of time spent working, much less after taxes. I've netted less cash over the past couple of years but more sweat equity (no cash equivalent) and operating knowledge. In my career as an engineer I hit a ceiling of capital productivity a number of years ago, which was troubling but not a deal breaker. What spurred me into branching out professionally is a lack of cooperation in my field and a lack of focus on modern computing: terrible web access speed, difficulty in moving away from windows, challenges embracing modern scripting languages. These issues extend far beyond the scope of my company. This combo threw a monkey wrench in my happy work feedback loop. I'm in the process of remedying this from within my job as well as exploring other opportunities.


^= from observation, kids eat everything before and after work, as well as some work time too. Props to parents :).

*= Over the past month, I've fallen into the video game bin with World of Warcraft, the second job that never pays off ;).